German and Dutch Greens Sleepless on the World Wide Web

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This article describes two similar campaigns: the “3 Tage Wach” German campaign in 2009 (article written by Robert Heinrich and Michael Scharfschwerdt) and the “4 Day Wake” Dutch campaign in 2012 (written by Blanca de Riquer, GEF’s current intern).

Copyright: creative commons flickr subcityphotos‘3TageWach’

By Robert Heinrich – Michael Scharfschwerdt

During the last three days of the 2009 election campaign, the German Greens started a ‘Get Out The Vote‘ project which turned out to be the most successful event of the whole campaign: from Thursday 6 p.m. until Sunday 6 p.m., the Greens offered to answer every question the voters asked via internet – around the clock, day and night, for 72 hours. For this task, a team of more than 200 volunteers gathered in shifts in the party’s headquarters in Berlin in a room full of computers, laptops, bottles and pizza boxes. Most importantly: complemented by a varied programme of sofa talks and Skype interviews with prominent Green guests from home and abroad, the whole 72-hour session was broadcast by a live stream on the website ‘dreitagewach.gruene.de’.

This event became a huge success both among voters and media. Enthusiastic voters shared their thoughts: “I have never seen such a great campaign!” or “I might not vote for you, but I praise you for doing this!” All major TV shows and online newspapers reported on it. More than a quarter of a million users visited the website. And more than 12,000 questions were asked.

Three ingredients made this campaign cocktail such a major success:

1. Dialogue. In any election campaign, people are looking for answers. With ‘3 Tage Wach’, we responded to this most basic demand of the voter.

2. Event. We enriched this simple principle with sporting and show elements. It was the marathon character which made 3TageWach such a fascinating event: Will they really hang on? Will they be able to answer even the most remote question? Will every answer be personal and true?

3. Authenticity. We broadcast everything: the laptops, the pizza crusts, the empty beer bottles, the dark circles around the eyes at night. The voters who asked questions did not face an anonymous machine or smooth call centre voices. They faced real-life, enthusiastic, devoted volunteers who spent their free time to a dedicated cause and answered every question as well as they could. The answers were not streamlined texts, but personal, authentic answers – written in a ‘Green spirit’.

See also the Campaign Handbook chapters:
Campaigning Online
The Last 72 Hours

Dutch 4DW- Four Day Awake campaign

(The Dutch 4DW article has been written by Blanca de Riquer. To write this article GEF has interviewed Huub Bellemakers, responsible of the 4DW online campaign)

By Blanca de Riquer

In the context of the last national elections the Dutch Greens have also launched a sleepless campaign this September 2012. The idea of the campaign was similar to the “3 Tage Wach” German experience: for the last four days of the campaign, GroenLinks answered any question the voters asked via mail, facebook, twitter or any media. From Saturday afternoon to Wednesday night, the GroenLinks Utrecht’s office was full of volunteers, Members of Parliament and green party members with one objective: make a final push in the campaign and try to convince more people to vote Green. These four days were fully broadcast by live web stream.

Night during the 4DW

Night during the 4DW (Photo by Joline Suijkerbuijk)

Taking as a reference the first German experience, the Dutch 4DW campaign introduced new elements.

This time, the volunteers were not just waiting for calls but also calling party members asking them go out and to convince their neighbours and friends to also vote for Greens.

Dynamism and fun were two new features added to the campaign. In order to make the web stream more energetic, they decided to produce hourly update videos and live concerts in the GroenLinks office. In the videos, volunteers reported their experiences from that day and Members of Parliament and local councillors were interviewed. In fact, anyone that passed by and could tell an interesting story was recorded. This updates were broadcast hourly and even during the night there was people creating these videos. As the hours went by, the videos had funnier and crazier stories.  For instance, one night, all of a sudden, 3 volunteers and a candidate for Parliament decided to improvise a live concert and a performance for the web streaming.

The political circumstances were also different from the German experience. Dutch’ polls were predicting bad results for GroenLinks. Therefore, the campaign became not just a “get votes campaign” but also a way to send a positive message inside and outside the party. In words of Huub Bellemakers “the objective we had with the campaign was also to keep people with high spirit and send the message that although we were losing the elections, GroenLinks was still a nice party to belong to” The high motivation and enthusiasm showed by all people involved and the good time they all had during these 4 days of madness will make of this experience something to remember. Even though the great efforts, GroenLinks just managed to get 4 parliamentary seats from the 10 they had in previous elections.

Key ingredients of the Dutch campaign:

Fun and working: It was really important to combine the having fun with the working. It was essential to send the message that was really cool to be participating in this green campaign.

Show yourself as an open party: They enriched this principle by listening to citizens concerns and giving them answers in an honest way.

The image that you don’t give up: With this campaign they tried to show that the party was strong and united, and even though they were having a tough time, GroenLinks was a cool party to be in.

Hourly update (Photo by Joline Suijkerbuijk)

Recommendations for other similar campaigns

Create stories: The web stream has to be fun and dynamic. During the 4DW many nice stories occurred. One day while GroenLinks were calling green members, a woman on the phone explained that her 78 years old husband was alone in the train station handling out GroenLinks flyers. After this call 4 volunteers decided to go there and help him with the flyers. These kinds of stories make the campaign nicer.

Scenario set: The office where you launch the campaign should be in the centre of a big city. A problem of the Dutch campaign was that they were in a location that was a bit isolated.  It is important to be able to attract people that are walking in the street.

Well-known people: For any campaign is essential to have good media coverage. Therefore, a recommendation is to involve known people in the campaign, for instance an important member of the party or a celebrity.

You can watch here one the updates video of the 4DW. An interview with Bas Eickhout, member of the European Parliament.

 

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